Friday, December 22, 2006

Correct Terminology Relating To Sex Crimes

by Vicki Polin

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Part of educating our communties about sex crimes, is making sure everyone uses the correct terminology.

Over the last several years I have heard individuals use incorrect terms when talking about sexual violence. Please share the following information with all rabbis, cantors and other community leaders you know.

1) Many keep using the term "abuser" to describe someone who commits sexual offenses. The term "abuser" is a term often referring to a man who batters his wife. There are several correct terms used to describes an individual who commits a sex crime. The terms include "sex offender," "child molester," "sexual predator" and "pedophile." There are both male and female sex offenders. This includes children. Often when a child molests they are "sexually reactive", which is not exactly in the same catagory as a sex offender. For more information on Sexually Reactive youth, go to:

2) I keep hearing many rabbis in the United States, Canada and Israel use the term "
sexual harassment" to describe both "sexual abuse" and "sexual assault," These criminal behaviors on some levels are similar, yet are completely different.

3) The legal term for the word "rape" is "
sexual assault" or at times can refer to the term "sexual abuse"

4) Often individuals have been using the word "victim" to describe a man, woman or child who survived a sex crime. Using the word "survivor" to describe such a person can be extremely empowering and healing. Using the word "victim" often keeps a survivor feeling that they can never move beyond "victimhood." Remember the words one chooses to use can make a huge difference in the recovery of survivors of violent crimes.

For more in-depth definitions of terms relating to sex crimes, go to:


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